There are few things I love more than a good ol’ relay race. The excitement before, during, and after a relay race is something every runner should experience at least once in their lives.
Running is a solitary sport. You log miles on your own, alone in the world. You feel at home on the long empty road. The relay, however, brings the standoffishness out of the runner and plops them down in the middle of a TEAM.
The Runner is still running by themselves, but they are relied upon by others. Something new and different to the Runner – who is, under normal circumstances, banking only on their own self-set goals and aspirations.
Here are is a list of things that you will experience while being a part of a relay team:
- Teamwork – Your team is your tribe for the length of the relay. You may not know these people before the race, but they may just become your best friends afterward.
- Togetherness – The Runner, who is used to alone time, is suddenly dumped into a van with other runners. You are insta-team, and you are all depending on each other. The Runners check in with each other, help each other, make sure everyone is comfortable/hydrated/rested/uninjured.
- Hard Work – The Relay is demanding. You must work hard. You are running numerous times during a set amount of time. You can’t rest in a bed. You rarely have time for a shower. You don’t usually get a good meal. You have to dig down deep into your willpower reserves in order to grind out the miles the Relay requires from you.
- Pain – Even if you remain uninjured from the act of the Relay, you will be sorer than you can ever remember being. Imagine running 3 to 8 miles, and then throwing yourself in a van without much time to stretch or walk it off. Your muscles stiffen and react poorly to this abuse. Beware the next time you need to stand up. Each subsequent leg you run will be harder than the last. Except for the last leg. That one is the best, for you know that you are nearly done.
- Accomplishment – Overheard during the Hood to Coast 2016… somewhere in the coast range: “I mean, this is way harder than running a marathon. At least you are done after 3 or 4 hours with the marathon.”
- Fatigue – The Runner will feel more tired than at any other point in their life. But sleep is elusive in a van full of other runners. If the runner does find sleep it is because they manage to pass out on top of everyone else’s stinky running gear. Post relay, the runner will be so wired from the feat they just accomplished, there will be little chance of sleep.
- Funky smells – The smells that happen in that van are legendary. Seriously. A handful of runners stuffed into a van (usually during the hot summer months), with little time for proper hygiene. Trust me when I say that baby wipes are a Relay Runners best friend.
- Interesting Diet – The Runner will be lucky to get a solid meal during the relay. Instead, they will thrive on what they packed from home, or what is floating around the van. This usually means handfuls of gummy bears, pretzels, bananas, trail mix, jerky.
- Super Soakers – They aren’t just for kids. There is nothing better than being soaked by a stream of cold water during a blistering hot 7-mile run.
- Encouragement – There is a mountain of good vibes being thrown around on the roads of a relay. The Runner will feel fabulous when a faster runner glides by you with a “Good job, Runner!”, or “Looking good! You got this!”.
And finally, after all that, you get to the After Party. The Runner who is having a hard time moving around, but doesn’t dare sit down and stiffen up, will enjoy wandering around collecting freebies from the vendor booths. There is usually a massage area to relieve some muscle tension. And the Runner can fill their rumbly belly with a decent meal, and wash it down with a beer from the beer tent.
The After Party is a place to rejoice in the accomplishment your team has just completed. It is crowded with tired, sore, and deliriously happy runners.
Not all relays occur in the summer, but most of them raise money for a great cause. Another added benefit to signing up for this team-style event.
I can’t think of a better way to deprive yourself of sleep, food, and comfort.